My new granddaughter is six days old and my daughter is feeling pressure from other people that she has her days and nights mixed up. She had a high bilirubin on her discharge from the hospital and had to sleep on a special lighted blanket all the time. The baby nurses very well; during the day, she is difficult to waken for feedings but my daughter wakes her after 2 1/2 hours. However, during the night, the baby doesn’t go that long between feedings. She had her first newborn physical today, and she is perfect – back to her birth weight of 8-7 lbs. My daughter was crying on the phone because the baby is difficult to waken during the day. Help! – New Grandmother
Dear New G,
Our first response: a very emotional OMG, you care so much about your daughter and you want so much to help! How sweet and amazing. You even came to this parenting site for advice! You are clearly the best mom ever.
We want to reassure you and your daughter. The first couple of weeks of new parenthood are rife with intense anxieties, and they often come to a head around, oh, day six. But as stressful as this phase can be, it sounds like the baby is 100% on track. And healthy as can be. In fact, we’re guessing that by the time you read this response, both of you will be reassured by more weight gain and less daytime sleeping.
If she’s still sleeping more during the day and less at night, here’s what you should know: wonky sleep schedules are normal for newborns. It’s hard on new parents who really need sleep, but it’s not wrong, unhealthy or anyone’s fault. And it is temporary. Newborns sleep about 16 out of 24 hours. Even more in the first week. It may be easier for a newborn to sleep during the day because the lights and images are just so overwhelming, they exhaust her or force her to shut down and sleep. Remember, she’s used to being in a dark, small, warm place with a cacophony of noise from mom’s organs.
Most babies get their days and nights straight within a month or two, though they will often continue to wake up every few hours to feed for quite some time. Darkness and lack of stimulating noise might help her get the gist – though consistent white noise may actually help her sleep. It can help to avoid too much eye contact at night as babies can find that exciting.
When or whether to wake up a baby who’s sleeping during the day is a matter of some debate. Three hours is a pretty commonly adopted time limit for daytime naps, but sometimes – as your daughter has discovered – it’s just really hard to keep a baby awake. So don’t sweat it too much. No bad habits are being set up. She won’t be nocturnal forever. The only ones who really suffer from these long daytime stretches of sleep are the parents.
So encourage your daughter to sleep as much as she can. Whenever she can. People always say “nap when the baby naps.” With a newborn sleeping sixteen hours a day, she’ll probably never have more opportunity to heed this adage. Still, it’s not always that easy to drop off to sleep when you’re a six-day-old mother. New moms are hard wired to be very responsive. Turning everything off and collapsing into bed in the middle of the day – even when you are bone tired – can be hard. It can really help to have someone else on baby duty if possible. If you’re nearby, you could offer to spot her so she can get a little more rest. Sleep deprivation makes the worries of new parenthood that much worse.
It’s so hard to watch your own daughter at the beginning of a big learning curve, but she’s doing great. Almost every new parent we know had at least one crying festival at some point between four to seven days postpartum. There are more hormonal changes in the first week postpartum than in all of adolescence! Plus she’s nursing all night. And running on adrenalin fumes. It takes time to learn to trust yourself, your baby and the idea that everything is okay. It sounds like she’s got a ton of support from you. We’re confident that she’ll get there.
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